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The Effects of Free Sample Promotions on Incremental Brand Sales


Author Info

  • Kapil Bawa

    (Zicklin School of Business, Baruch College, One Baruch Way, New York, New York 10010)

  • Robert Shoemaker

    (Stern School of Business, New York University, 44 West 4th St., New York, New York 10012)

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    The authors present a model of free sample effects and evidence from two field experiments on free samples. The model incorporates three potential effects of free samples on sales: (1) an acceleration effect, whereby consumers begin repeat purchasing of the sampled brand earlier than they otherwise would; (2) a cannibalization effect, which reduces the number of paid trial purchases of the brand; and (3) an expansion effect, which induces purchasing by consumers who would not consider buying the brand without a free sample. The empirical findings suggest that, unlike other consumer promotions such as coupons, free samples can produce measurable long-term effects on sales that can be observed as much as 12 months after the promotion. The data also show that the effectiveness of free sample promotions can vary widely, even between brands in the same product category. Application of the model to the data from the two experiments reveals that the magnitude of acceleration, cannibalization, and expansion effects varies substantially across the two free sample promotions. These and other findings suggest that the model can be a useful tool for obtaining insights into the nature of free sample promotions.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by INFORMS in its journal Marketing Science.

    Volume (Year): 23 (2004)
    Issue (Month): 3 (November)
    Pages: 345-363

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    Handle: RePEc:inm:ormksc:v:23:y:2004:i:3:p:345-363

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    Related research

    Keywords: free samples; samples; promotions; field experiments; incremental volume; coupons; incremental sales; sampling programs; consumer products; panel data; repeat purchasing; long-term effects;


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    Cited by:
    1. Kissan Joseph & Murali Mantrala, 2009. "A model of the role of free drug samples in physicians’ prescription decisions," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 20(1), pages 15-29, March.
    2. Abraham Koshy & . Abhishek, 2010. "Quality Perceptions of Private Label Brands Conceptual Framework and Agenda for Research," Working Papers id:2756, eSocialSciences.
    3. Saak, Alexander E., 2010. "Dynamic Informative Advertising of New Experience Goods," 2010 Annual Meeting, July 25-27, 2010, Denver, Colorado 61326, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    4. Luís Cabral, 2012. "Lock in and switch: Asymmetric information and new product diffusion," Quantitative Marketing and Economics, Springer, vol. 10(3), pages 375-392, September.
    5. K. Sudhir & Nathan Yang, 2014. "Exploiting the Choice-Consumption Mismatch: A New Approach to Disentangle State Dependence and Heterogeneity," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1941, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    6. Daniel Halbheer & Florian Stahl & Oded Koenigsberg & Donald R. Lehmann, 2013. "Digital Content Strategies," Working Papers 329, University of Zurich, Department of Business Administration (IBW).
    7. Mihal Stoyanov, 2010. "Modern concept on the consumer choice as a rational behavior, encouraged by means of sales promotion techniques," Economic Thought journal, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences - Economic Research Institute, issue 1, pages 101-116.
    8. Ting Liu & Monic Jiayin Sun, 2007. "Informal Payments in Developing Countries' Public Health Sectors¤," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series WP2007-032, Boston University - Department of Economics.
    9. Lee, Michael S.W. & Motion, Judith & Conroy, Denise, 2009. "Anti-consumption and brand avoidance," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 169-180, February.
    10. Yifan Dou & Marius Florin Niculescu & Dongjun Wu, 2011. "Optimal Consumer Network Structure Formation under Network Effects: Seeds Controllability and Visibility," Working Papers 11-07, NET Institute, revised Oct 2011.
    11. Abhishek & Koshy, Abraham, . "Quality Perceptions of Private Label Brands: Conceptual Framework and Agenda for Research," IIMA Working Papers WP2008-02-04, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, Research and Publication Department.
    12. Monic Jiayin Sun, 2006. "When Should Firms Offer Free Trials?," Boston University - Department of Economics - Working Papers Series WP2006-062, Boston University - Department of Economics.


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